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The Lemhi County Commissioners were surprised to learn the Forest Service is re visiting the agency’s Travel Plan and were dismayed to learn the review is being done without any county involvement.

Salmon-Cobalt District Ranger Jay Winfield met with the board Tuesday, May 26. He informed commissioners John Jakovac, Ken Miner and Commissioner Chairman Rick Snyder that the Travel Management Plan is a three phase process and that of the A, B, and C portions only part B has been addressed. None of the commissioners had ever heard of sub parts A,B or C.

Winfield said it was part B that had been completed and decisions and the designations made will not be changed however, parts A and C have yet to be processed. He said sub part A has to do with routes and trails that were not addressed in the Travel Plan and part C has to do with Winter activities on forest lands. He said no decisions will be made at this time on parts A and C, only recommendations.

Lemhi County Road Specialist Jay Davis took exception to the statement that not all roads were addressed in the years it took to put the agency’s Travel Management Plan together. “We went through every route in the forest. I spent three and a half years with you folks in these meetings so when you tell me they weren’t done, they were. We analyzed duplicate routes. We looked at safety issues. We looked at the whole gamut. We’ve been down this road and now they’re coming up with these three sections here. We talked about Winter use and it was not to be any part of this travel plan”

Winfield maintained sub part B was only the first part of the three part process. He said, “Travel Management is not finished on the forest.”

A Travel Analysis public meeting had been scheduled for that evening. (May 26.) The analysis report is to contain recommendations for the forest road system to assure plans meet resource and other management objectives.

Commissioner Snyder commented that what is being called sub part A was included in what’s being referred to as sub part B. He recalled multiple meetings where the public would lay out maps all over the meeting room and look at redundant roads and roads that weren’t being used and primary roads and trails. He said these new meetings will be very confusing for the public to understand.

Davis had not been notified of that evening’s meeting which brought up another issue. He said that years ago when the Travel Plan was being developed there was a signed Co-operative Agency Status Agreement with the Salmon-Challis National Forest which stated the county would be involved in all meetings and that he was to be the county’s liaison and designated representative. Davis said to his knowledge he has not been dismissed from that role and has asked numerous people to make sure he is notified if any Forest Service road business is planned.

Upon questioning, it was ascertained that meetings on this latest project began in April of this year when a team met in the local Forest Supervisor’s Office and looked at the routes that weren’t addressed in sub part B. According to Winfield the team identified a list of roads for study as to which should stay open and which are unnecessary. Then managers from the forest districts reviewed the list and made their recommendations which in some instances, based on hands-on experience of usage, did not agree with the team’s recommendations. Commissioner Jakovac said those meetings were the first problem because the county was not informed about them or made a part of the team.

The commissioners adamantly stated what are now being called sub parts were never mentioned during the hundreds of hours devoted to development of the agency’s Travel Management Plan first published in 2009. Snyder said it’s almost as if all that work done in collaboration with the Forest Service is being circumvented and thrown out the window.

Commissioner Miner was not in office at the time therefore, not involved in the Travel Plan but from just listening to what was being said he expressed an intense distrust based on what he was hearing.

Winfield reiterated the new discussions will not result in any actual decisions. He said designations made on part B will remain intact and that the travel map developed from those designations will not change. He said the only way the agency could make a decision on any road considered in sub part A would be to first go through a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. He said any roads now listed in the Travel Analysis for possible future closure due to resource conditions or other factors would only be recommendations at this time. He said that perhaps five years down the road if a line officer happened to be doing a NEPA process on another project a choice could be made, based on the previous recommendations, to either include an analysis of those previously recommended road closures in the NEPA process being conducted, or not.

Winfield quoted from the National Forests System Lands under Code of Federal Regulations 212. He read, “It’s needed for safe and effective travel, for administration, utilization and the protection of national forest system lands. To meet resource and other management objectives in relevancy to the land resource manager in our forest plan. Needed to meet applicable statutory and regulatory requirements to reflect long term funding expectations and minimizes adverse environmental impacts associated with road construction, reconstruction, decommissioning and maintenance.” He said that is the direction being followed.

Snyder who was directly involved in the lengthy Travel Management Plan said one of the county’s main objectives in the Plan collaboration was to avoid giving a local administrator the sole power to close or obliterate a road. He said, “We looked at all of these…even every single little wood road that went off all of these things trying to decide what were priorities, what were little roads that needed to stay open. Those that weren’t on that list, they were considered to be non-essential and administrative could do pretty much as you wished.” He said, “We already rode this horse once, several years ago, and it was really tough on everybody then.”

Winfield acknowledged that he didn’t arrive here until the very end of the Travel Plan process. The commissioners and Davis were quick to assure him their complaints and concerns were not aimed at him personally.

Winfield said that based on what he was hearing he will recommend to the agency that the Travel Analysis process be started over, with the county included in the talks.

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